AAAS Annual Meeting to Celebrate the World Year of Physics
S. James Gates Jr.
A hundred years ago, young Albert Einstein published a trio of papers that revolutionized understanding of energy, light and timeand, in the process, completely reordered the human conception of the physical world. The storm of creative inspiration was so profound that 1905 is now widely known as Einstein's annus mirabilishis miracle year.
A century later, Einstein's discoveries are being commemorated globally with the World Year of Physics. The U.S. celebration will begin at the AAAS Annual Meeting on 20 February 2005 with a day-long series of symposia and speeches that reach from the dawn of the modern age of physics to questions of quantum mechanics and string theory that seem certain to dominate the future.
The events will be capped with a plenary address by S. James Gates Jr., a pioneer in string theory and "supersymmetry" and then with a gala reception.
"We're honored and thrilled to be hosting this U.S. kick-off event for
the World Year of Physics at the AAAS annual meeting," said AAAS President Shirley Ann Jackson, a physicist who is also president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. "Research in this field has yielded so many practical benefits, from optoelectronics to nanotechnology, and the questions that are being considered now by theoretical physicists may well yield a new era of understanding and exploration of the universe."
The AAAS Annual Meeting, set for 17-21 February in Washington, D.C., is expected to draw thousands of researchers, educators, students and science buffs from around the world with a mix of programs that covers the spectrum of science, from astronomy and earth science to political psychology to zoology. Advance registration for the conference, including discount rates, closes on Friday 28 January.
The day-long Einstein celebration on Sunday 20 February is sponsored by the American Physical Society.
It begins with a session that brings together three top Einstein scholars who will present papers that offer new perspectives on the work of the 20th century's most important physicist. "Einstein in Historical and Philosophical Perspective" features Don Howard of the University of Notre Dame; John Norton, of the University of Pittsburgh; and Michel Janssen of the University of Minnesota. Each has participated in the editing of the papers left by Einstein.
The second forum Sunday morning will explore Einstein's big year and the repercussions over the next decade, both in his own work and among other scientists who were inspired by-and in some cases antagonistic tohis work. "One Decade in the Life of Einstein: The Impact of 1905-1915 on Physics" will feature Richard Wolfson, of Middlebury College in Vermont; Barry C. Barish, of the California Institute of Technology; and Rolf M. Sinclair, Centro de Estudios Científicos in Chile.
From 12:30 to 1:15 p.m., Steven E. Koonin, chief scientist at British Petroleum, will deliver a lecture "Physics: Beyond the Science." Koonin received his Ph.D. in theoretical physics from MIT in 1975, and later served as the chairman of the faculty, vice president and provost of the institute. "BP, and the world, need carefully thought-out, technically informed strategies to manage the looming issues of availability and continuity of energy supply, as well as environmental impacts," Koonin says.
The afternoon will feature two sessions that explore the long-term impact of Einstein's discoveries:
"The Impact of Twentieth Century Physics" will explore the changes wrought through the realm of science and technology, from astronomy and astrophysics to communication and medicine. The speakers will be Neal Lane of Rice University, formerly the science and technology advisor under President Bill Clinton and director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; and Dr. Elias Zerhouni, director of the National Institutes of Health.
"Frontiers of 21st Century Physics" will explore how, even after such an extraordinary century, the most the greatest challenges and opportunities for physics lie ahead. The featured speakers: Persis S. Drell, director of research at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center; William A. Zajc, Columbia University; and Laura Greene, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
From 6:30-7:30 p.m., S. James Gates Jr. will deliver an address, "Einstein's Lessons for the Third Millennium." Gates is a pioneer in the search for a new vision of physical reality. The presentation will begin with discussions of Einstein's science and its legacy for today and the future of theoretical physics. The main focus, however, will be upon Einstein's legacy generally for humanity in the third millennium.
Edward W. Lempinen
21 January 2005